wonder what it would be like to live life as a blonde, a brunette or a
redhead? Or to look in the mirror and see what used to be your natural
hair color sans the gray?
so, take heart. You're in good company. Color is one of the
fastest-growing and most exciting chemical services offered in today's
professional hair salons. It has a following as diverse as teenagers
aiming to shock with deep blue locks to adults looking to recapture the
sun-kissed highlights of youth, or simply erase a few years by covering
it comes to self-expression, the times are, indeed, good. Gone are
the days when color was considered a hush-hush service remember
the popular advertising slogan, Only her hairdresser knows for sure?
Color, you see, has come charging out of the closet. Today, young
and old, male and female are wearing it like a badge of honor.
how does one successfully enter this age-defying, fashionable world and
emerge with truly delightful results?
secret, unsurprisingly, is knowledge knowing the possibilities,
limitations, maintenance and pitfalls. Only then can one make the
best choices and live happily ever after in the wonderful world of color!
calling a hair salon and booking an appointment for "color"
won't get you very far. There are as many types of color services
as there are salons listed in the local directory.
start with a few basics.
most basic and commonly referred to color service is something called
a single-process or one-process color. It's a type of color
permanent, semi-permanent or demi-permanent that's applied to the
entire head to create a new base color.
women say they're having their hair colored as opposed to highlighted
it usually means they're getting a single-process color.
the right type of single-process color, however, is necessary to achieving
the desired results.
On Our Heads
color is the only type of color capable of covering gray one hundred percent.
The other types of color can only partially cover gray, creating what
seems to be a translucent stain on those areas.
this staining effect isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many women who
have only a scattering of gray like the look that a non-permanent color
provides: The slightly stained strands can actually look like highlights!
color has another advantage. It's the only color that contains ammonia
or an ammonia derivative which is a necessary ingredient
(along with hydrogen peroxide) in the lightening of natural hair color
(as high as four levels, in some cases).
ammonia works by softening the hair so that the cuticle swells, thus allowing
the color to penetrate and deposit into the hair shaft, as opposed to
only temporarily coloring the cuticle, or outer layer of the hair.
course, the downside of permanent hair color, is that it's just what its
name implies permanent. And, since permanent color cannot
lighten permanent color (only natural color up to four levels), it's necessary
to use a special color remover if the hair is to return to a lighter shade.
Today . . . Gone Tomorrow
colors, on the other hand such as semi- and demi-permanents
have traditionally been valued for their no-ammonia and, in the case of
semi-permanent colors, no-peroxide, content, which makes them more gentle
on the hair. In addition, semi-permanents are true, non-committal
colors, since they wash out of the hair after a number of shampoos.
the traditional non-ammonia status of semi- and demi-permanent colors,
some color manufacturers have introduced such products with small amounts
of ammonia or ammonia derivatives to produce longer-lasting results.
Unlike permanent colors, however, such products are unable to lighten
the hair or cover gray one hundred percent.
concerned with ammonia or other additives, should consult their colorist
or contact the product manufacturer before using a non-permanent product.
Up and Away
going lighter takes a little more than a traditional single-process permanent
color can accomplish. In such cases, colorists often turn to one
of two procedures a highlift color or a double-process service.
highlift color is one that lifts up to four levels of natural color, while
simultaneously depositing color. It differs from a traditional single-process
permanent color in that it contains a higher ammonia content, which allows
it to consistently reach that level of lift (unlike a traditional single-process
permanent color, which cannot always reach that mark).
double-process is necessary to exceed four levels of lift. In this
procedure, a color lightener is used to remove natural color from the
hair, and then a toner is applied for color. This is the procedure
necessary for turning someone with black hair into a platinum blonde!
do exactly what their name implies they mimic those beautiful,
light strands of hair that some people were born with and others enjoy
after a few hours or days in the sun.
can be added to any natural or artificial base color, but are especially
popular when paired with dirty blonde or mousy brown hair, because of
their ability to transform those base colors into palettes that are completely
dazzling and alluring.
are exactly like highlights, with one tiny exception: Instead of
removing color to create lighter strands that highlight the hair, the
colorist uses color to create darker strands that lowlight, or add warmth
to, the hair.
are especially popular at summer's end, when they're used to counteract
the over-bleaching caused by sun exposure and to return hair to a warmer
shade in time for the fall. Likewise, they are also used to return
hair that's been over-bleached by chemical services to a healthier-looking,
more natural shade.
also a wonderful choice for someone who wants to turn back the hands of
time by putting a little more pepper back into their salt and pepper locks!
increase the multi-dimensional effects of highlights and lowlights, colorists
can use varying strengths of color lighteners or different colors
on alternating foils during the procedures.
and lowlights can be created in a number of ways via foils (or
highlighting paper), a technique called balyage, or a cap.
most popular way is via foils (or highlighting paper). In this method,
the colorist selects strands of hair, places them on a piece of foil,
uses a color brush to cover them with a hair lightener or color, depending
on the desired effect, and then folds the bottom edge of the foil up to
the top to sandwich in the hair.
colorists position a plexi-board between their chest and the client's
head to hold the foil in place, make the lightener or color application
easier and get closer to the hair root.
traditional technique by which a colorist chooses the strands of hair
to be treated is called weaving. Colorists choose a section of hair
and then, using a metal-ended tail comb, weave out intermittent pieces,
which are then placed on the foil for lightening or coloring. A
small, fine weave can be used to create a very subtle, natural effect,
while a larger weave can be used to create a more funky, chunkier effect.
a colorist will use a technique called slicing to choose the strands of
hair to be processed. Slicing is the simple selection of hair sans
weaving for processing. For example, a colorist who wants
to add a few chunky highlights to frame the face is using slicing when
selecting a section of hair for processing.
which means to sweep in French, is a free-form painting technique that
has become more popular in the last few years. Instead of weaving
or slicing and enlisting the use of foils, the colorist uses a color brush
or a special dispensing tool to paint the hair with a lightener or color.
process is suitable for the creation of more scattered highlights or lowlights
and to painting the outer sheath as opposed to the underside
of the hair.
colorists use foils to highlight the hair and balyage to add a few lowlights
for greater dimension.
which are snuggly fitting headpieces covered with tiny holes
are used mostly for adding highlights or lowlights to very short hair.
The colorist places the cap (traditionally made of latex and rubber, but
also available in foam and plastic) on the client's head and then, using
a crochet hook, pulls hair through the tiny holes. The exposed hair
is then covered with a lightener or color to produce the desired effect.
In Its Place
are several ways to describe the amount and placement of foil highlights
and lowlights in the hair notably full-head, half-head, partial-head
full-head is obviously the most extensive of the choices, creating an
all-over effect of highlighted hair. A half-head usually refers
to an area that reaches from the front and front-sides of the hair to
the imaginary line where the ears end. Although the term partial-head
can refer to anything less than a full-head, it's usually considered a
somewhat open-ended term that refers to no specific area, but is less
than a half-head. Framing a type of partial-head refers
to the placement of foils around the face to add brightness.
highlighted hair has processed, it's time to remove any highlighting aids
(such as foils or a cap), shampoo the lightener out of the hair and apply
a toner. A toner, which can be a permanent, semi-permanent or demi-permanent
color, does just what its name implies: It lends a tone to the newly
lightened strands of hair.
nice thing about many non-permanent toners is that they gradually wash
out of the hair, which allows for greater flexibility when it comes to
changing to a different tone.
maintenance the frequency with which one will be at the salon to
maintain a chosen color should be carefully considered when choosing
a color service.
and demi-permanent colors usually require a touch-up every four-to-six
weeks, as new hair appears from the scalp. The greater the difference
in color between the newly appearing hair and the permanent color, the
more noticeable the roots. A brunette who decides to go blond should
be prepared for an aggressive maintenance schedule possibly every
three weeks as even the slightest hair growth will create a line
color is much more forgiving, gradually washing out of the hair after
about 10-to-12 shampoos for the longer-lasting colors and 4-to-6 shampoos
for the traditional colors. But while semi-permanent color won't
leave a line of demarcation or roots it does lose a little
of its vibrancy with each shampoo.
are several ways to maintain a full-head of highlights or lowlights.
Under one schedule, a full-head is followed by one or two return visits
to the salon at four-to-six week intervals to touch-up the re-growth at
the crown, and then a return visit for a full-head.
another schedule, a full-head is followed by a half-head about three months
later, then a full-head three months after that, and so on.
Rid of Color
removal refers to the removal of permanent color from the hair
a necessary procedure anytime someone with artificial color wants a lighter
shade, or has a build-up of color in their hair.
build-up is usually the result of botched, at-home color sessions.
For example, it's not unusual for at-home "colorists" to put
permanent color over their entire head each time they color their hair.
What they fail to realize is that they're creating a color build-up by
re-coloring parts of their hair over and over again with each application.
What may have once looked good, eventually looks like a series of color
bands throughout the hair.
professional colorist, on the other hand, will approach a touch-up by
putting permanent color on the new growth or virgin hair
only. Toward the end of the processing time, some colorists will
then run the permanent color through the rest of the hair to re-fresh
the color, while others will use a semi-permanent color to re-fresh the
previously colored areas.
properly used, color removal is one of the most effective tools to corrective
color, which is, by definition, the undoing of previous color services.
tempted to use a permanent color to make their lighter locks darker should
remember that lighter colors can be made darker, but darker permanent
colors cannot be made lighter without first removing color.
When torn between two permanent colors, it's always best to choose the
lighter of the two, as it leaves the option of going darker with a simple
it's necessary to fill the hair in order to achieve a particular color,
address issues of porosity, or return the hair to a state of vibrancy.
In this procedure, colorists basically add missing color pigments
that exist at the level of the target color.
who wants to tint back (or make their hair more than two levels darker
than their existing color), will first need to fill their hair with the
color pigments that exist at that target level.
someone whose hair is very porous (perhaps due to over-bleaching), will
most likely need their hair filled, as will someone whose hair has become
dull and void of vibrancy and richness at the ends.
are professional colorist lingo for describing hair color. For
example, in the level system, which is used by many major color manufacturers
especially those from Europe Levels 1-through-5 usually
represent hair that's black to medium/light brown; and Levels 6-through-12
usually represent hair color that's light brown to extra light blonde.
course, not every color manufacturer that uses a level system follows
the same guidelines. Some, for example, define those same colors
within the context of Levels 2-through-10, and while one manufacturer
may call a Level 6 a light brown, another may call it a dark blonde.
Than It Looks
color is far trickier than it looks! After all, there's good reason
why so many non-colorists haven't a clue as to why their at-home efforts
produced hair that's (gasp!) pink, green, or some other unwanted hue!
the basic root of man (but alas, not all!) such problems is the fact that
most novices have no understanding of what's commonly called the Law of
Color. This law which is well known to those with an art
background defines the composition of colors and how they interact
with one another.
example, there are primary, secondary and tertiary colors, with primary
colors being yellow, red and blue; secondary being orange, violet and
green (created by combining two primary colors); and tertiary being such
colors as blue-violet and yellow-orange (created by mixing primary colors
with their neighboring secondary colors).
course, it gets far trickier after that. Skilled colorists recognize
that all haircolor is tertiary, but contains dominating primary or secondary
colors an important distinction when it comes to turning that green
hair into a beautiful and desired shade!
you're considering a major color change, it definitely pays to have it
done first by a professional. Once you've got the color you like, you
can match it closely to a store-bought formula, if you prefer to keep
up the maintenance yourself.
Like fashion, hair color trends come and go. With the new advances in
hair color and the many ways of adding or altering color now, why stay
with the color you've always had? Experiment, play, try something new
from time to time. Ask your colorist what's the latest and greatest. Don't
be a square when it comes to your hair! Have some fun and let a little
color go to your head.
author wishes to thank the following for their valuable contribution to
this story: Tom Dispenza, president of the Worldwide HairColorists
Association and senior manager of training at Clairol, New York, N.Y.,
and Bruce Klein, national programs manager at Goldwell Cosmetics, USA,
Linthicum Heights, Md.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Jonna Crispens is a New York-based freelance writer and editor
with a passion for unlocking the secrets to healthy living, anti-aging
and personal style at all ages.
this article with others right now at